Note: This statement was sent June 1, 2020, to HACC employees.
Good morning, colleagues.
I write you this morning with deep sorrow knowing that many in our community are suffering, afraid and angry over the recent murder of George Floyd and the repeated acts of violence against people of color. Although I do not know what it is like to be victimized because of the color of my skin, I have a responsibility, as your president and a human being, to speak out against the racism that is raging through our country. Let me be clear: HACC will NEVER tolerate acts of racism against any of our community members.
More than any other time in our 56-year history as the state’s largest community college, we need to demonstrate, encourage and promote inclusion, engagement and belonging. Each of us, starting with me, plays an important part in this journey, and we must hold each other accountable. We must never tolerate uncivil and hateful behavior and language in and out of the classroom.
Therefore, as HACC employees and in support of our core values, we must do all we can to reduce barriers and eradicate racist thoughts, words and deeds – held consciously or not – in and out of the classroom. We must listen to each other, support each other and commit to creating a safe environment where everyone may thrive. And, for those of us who are white like myself, we must educate ourselves regarding the long history of race-based injustice in our nation since, as Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can change the world.” Click here for a link to some helpful resources.
For our HACC employees of color, know that we are here to support you. We recognize instances of racial bias you may face every day in our communities because of your skin color. Thus, we want to provide you a safe, nurturing and inclusive environment at HACC.
Therefore, at this time, I would like to make two requests of my white HACC colleagues:
- Discuss with your family members (especially your children) Mr. Floyd’s death and the long history of racialized violence that preceded his death. It will be a difficult dialogue; however, there are many resources available to aid you in the conversation. Please remember that your “talk” is a choice – something our colleagues of color do not have the luxury of choosing since it is literally a matter of life and death for them.
- Show your support for students, colleagues or neighbors of color who have their safety and dignity threatened – at HACC, in public spaces and in their neighborhoods – regularly. Being a concerned HACC colleague is about showing up and saying something, so speak up for what is right. There are no right words. Please reach out to those you know are hurting and let them know you are there for them. Mostly, however, be willing to listen to the stories of others. Armenta Hinton, Ph.D., vice president of inclusion and diversity, is available for consult, if needed. In addition, if you need to speak with a counselor, please use our employee assistance program.
The HACC community must be united in saying no more to racism and intolerance. We must also be united in the promotion of belongingness, civility, engagement, inclusion and social justice – not only within the HACC community but within the communities in which we live.
John J. “Ski” Sygielski, MBA, Ed.D.
Pronouns: He, Him, His
President & CEO
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College